Wintry weather plays havoc with south MS holiday travel plans

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A winter storm buried the midwest, and crippled the northeast. More than 300 flights from Chicago had to be cancelled. New York airports had 600 flights taken off their departure boards. that impacted connecting flights for passengers flying out of south Mississippi.

Jim Boettcher was so excited about going home for the holidays, he checked in for his flight almost five hours early. "I want a white Christmas in Philadelphia," he said at the ticket counter. There was one problem. The snow he craved was creating a travelling nightmare. Some flights were delayed, hundreds of others around the country had to be cancelled. "No. It's fine," said Boettcher. "As long as I get home for Christmas. That's what I really care about."

Getting out of Gulfport Biloxi International Airport on Friday wasn't the issue. Airport director Bruce Frallic said virtually all of his early flights were on schedule. "There's only a few markets affected right now. And right now, our flights are running on time," he said.

Making sure passengers and their bags got to their final destination is what caused so many headaches. Flights in and out of the airport on this Friday before Christmas were at capacity.

Those crowds were a good sign for airport director Bruce Frallic. "We're going to be about seven percent up for the entire year," Frallic said.

Yet if you were Joshua Howard, the last thing you wanted Friday was a full airplane. He got to the airport at 4:00 am. But, when he checked in, the airline bumped Howard off his flight. "I had a confirmed seat. But they said no, you can't get on until Sunday," the soldier said. So, Howard went to the airport USO and worked the phones, looking for another way home. Otherwise, the Delaware soldier was told he'd be stuck in south Mississippi all weekend. "They overbooked like all their flights. So they can't even put me on standby for anything, in case somebody shows up," he was told.

Fortunately, one of Santa's elves showed up. The airport's Jim Pitts used a little of his holiday magic and got Howard on a flight home today, rather than Sunday, as long as the weather north of here cooperates. As a relieved Howard was escorted to his new gate, he simply said, "Thank you."